Al Lichtman was a pioneer film producer whose career paralleled the growth of motion pictures from a one-reeler to a wide-screen spectacle. He was a movie executive for United Artists, MGM and later 20th Century Fox. Originally a field manager for Famous Players in 1912, Lichtman gained notoriety when he was a successful sales manager for UA from 1927-1935.
After Twentieth Century Pictures left United Artists to join Fox (taking along with it UA President Joe Schenck), United Artists partners Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Sam Goldwyn agreed to make Lichtman president of the lot for a generous $2,000 a week plus bonuses.
Lichtman's reign didn't last long at United Artists. After butting heads over "Barbary Coast" with Goldwyn, Lichtman resigned in the same year he was hired. In his resignation letter, he called it ''a difference in views with one of the producers." UA's directors unanimously accepted his resignation.
Lichtman went on to MGM, where he was a sales advisor and later an executive producer for 14 years, working on such films as "The Wizard of Oz." He then spent eight years at Fox where he produced "The Young Lions," starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin. He was also a key figure in the development of CinemaScope.
Not one who was born into fame and fortune, Lichtman's father died when he was 12 and his mother died a year later. At 13, the lad was penniless and homeless, but not broken. He worked as a busboy, a bartender and finally as an usher in a burlesque house.
His first job in the film business was selling and managing lobby frames advertising the bills at local theaters.
When he was 24, Lichtman formed his own company, Alco, but a partner absconded with the money and forced it into bankruptcy. The franchise holders took over and renamed the firm Metro Pictures, the founding company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.